Avoiding 10 Road Trip Mistakes
Most road trip mishaps don’t end this badly! But it’s probably a good idea to let Mattie Bamman help you avoid making the 10 most common road trip mistakes.
After college, I went on tour with a metal band. We purchased a wreck of a van and set out to play some shows. One night, a thousand miles from home, the oil light went on, but we decided to blame it on faulty wiring. The oil ran out around 5 a.m., causing the engine to die for good. To make matters worse, we were driving through backcountry South Carolina, but that’s another story for another time. The lesson: It pays to plan well for a road trip. If you’re still willing to take advice from a road tripper who ran out of oil, here are 10 common road trip mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Underestimating Time
Google Maps may say four hours, but coffee stops, bathroom breaks, and unexpected adventures always take longer than expected. To get the most out of a road trip, give yourself plenty of time. I like to spend two nights each in as many destinations as possible.
2. Hitting Rush Hour
Toronto may be five hours away, but so is rush hour. Plan ahead: Instead of sitting in traffic for two hours, consider visiting a museum, spending extra time on the beach, sleeping in, etc.—anything that will put you in larger cities after 8 p.m.
Don’t book a bungee jump off the Europabrücke Bridge when you’re still 1,000 kilometers away. Nothing ruins a road trip more than thinking only of the destinations. Make a loose plan, but listen to the road. Go with the flow.
4. Inviting Larry
His jokes may seem harmless. His request to stay in five-star hotels may come off as yet another joke. But there’s nothing worse than being trapped in a car with someone you don’t get along with. Choose travel companions wisely.
5. Getting Caught Off Guard
Sometimes we don’t want to think about the worse-case scenarios, or maybe we can’t, but it’s important to be prepared. If traveling in hot weather, always keep a large jug of extra water in the car. If it’s cold, always pack warm clothes and blankets in case you have to spend the night in the car.
Speaking of hot weather, there’s nothing worse than getting cooked in the car. Have you ever seen the Seinfeld where Kramer falls asleep in the sun coated in butter? That’s what I’m talking about. Wear sunscreen on long driving days, and whenever possible, get off the road during the hottest hours.
7. Renting in a Foreign City
Each country has its own style of driving, and city driving can be a real hassle. Consider renting a car in a nearby town instead of a major city. This eliminates the need to navigate complicated traffic patterns and congested roadways, both when you pick up the rental and when you return it.
8. Not Getting the Right Permit
Different countries have different driving laws, and some require special permits. For example, Slovenia requires a vignette sticker, and law breakers face a hefty fine. Unfortunately, rental agents might not know the rules in neighbouring countries, so it’s up to you to do the research.
9. Not Preparing for Toll Booths
In a foreign country, a row of toll booths can look like a pinball machine. Which lane to choose? Can I pay with a credit card? These are the types of questions to ask the rental car agency before leaving.
Back roads let you see new parts of the world, but they sometimes take much longer than expected. I drove California’s Route 1 for the first time in a Jetta hauling a U-Haul trailer. After six hours of winding roads and sheer cliffs, I really wished I’d made an exit plan. The lesson: Even though it looks scenic on a map, it’s best to have an alternative route in your back pocket at all times.
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